Turkish Jews Today

The present size of Jewish Community is estimated at around 26.000. The vast majority live in Istanbul, with a community of about 2.500 in Izmir and other smaller groups located in Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Canakkale, Iskenderun, Kirklareli etc. Sephardis make up 96% of the Community, with Ashkenazis accounting for the rest. There are about 100 Karaites, an independent group who does not accept the authority of the Chief Rabbi.

Chief Rabbi Rafael Saban


Turkish Jews are legally represented, as they have been for many centuries, by the Hahambasi, the Chief Rabbi. Rav David Asseo, Chief Rabbi since elected in 1961, is assisted by a religious Council made up of a Rosh Bet Din and three Hahamim. Thirtyfive Lay Counsellors look after the secular affairs of the Community and an Executive Commitee of fourteen, the president of which must be elected from among the Lay Counselors, runs the daily affairs.

LaSinyoraAnkara Synagogue

Left: Turkish Crescent & Star on the top of the Ehal "La Sinyora" Synagogue (Izmir). Right: Ankara Synagogue


"Menorah" with Crescent & Star (Izmir)


Left: "Rimonim" with Crescent & Star (Izmir - Istanbul). Right: House bearing both "Magen David" and Moslem "Mashallah" (Galata - Istanbul)

Synagogues are classified as religious foundations (Vakifs). There are 16 synagogues in use in Istanbul today. Three are in service in holiday ressorts, during summer only. Some of them are very old, especially Ahrida Synagogue in the Balat area, which dates from middle15th century. The 15th and 16th century Haskoy and Kuzguncuk cemeteries in Istanbul are still in use today.

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